brag brag brag i designed the website press coverage: about the space / about the space getting shut down

The White Lightning Wherehouse is a place where a lot of beautiful circumstances rub elbows: a really active punk music scene, an extraordinary physical space, and a restless collection of young adult artists gathered around the periphery of the University. Last year's tenets threw knives at the wall and left big gashes, they wrote phone numbers on the wall with marker, they installed a trapeze, two trampolines, two stoves, four organs. The hosted punk shows almost every week and did a great job at it. They threw a copy machine off the second floor and skateboarded everywhere. They had lots of cats with fleas. They built a tiny room out of particle board, thick reference books, dinner trays, discarded 2x4s and old windows. It was used mostly for sex.

When my partner Josh and I took over the lease, there was a great deal of physical work involved. My favorite fact to cite is that trash removal costs $15/dumpster, and our first month's trash bill was $1,200. But more than the painting and scrubbing, the biggest challenge was for the community to view the Wherehouse as an viable art space. It is rough trying to create events that appeal to the already existant underground-loving community and also draw a new crowd. We have had movie nights curated by the director of the local pirate radio station and intermedia performances that involve sitar players Skyping in from India. Our biggest non-show event has been the Works-in-Progress festival. This University of Iowa-affiliated event takes place at various venues all over Iowa City for a few days each fall. Artists of every medium submit works to be critiqued as "in progress;" I submitted The Wherehouse as both a project and a space in which others could present projects. I gave a presentation, and artists gave studio tours. In the evening, visiting artist Flint Jamison presented along with others, including my troupe Les Dames du Burlesque, who tried out a new set of Tableau Vivants. Over 200 people showed up, most of whom would never have set foot in the Wherehouse otherwise.

It was about 9:45 p.m. on a Friday night at the Wherehouse. In the middle of the room a small cluster of 30 and 40-somethings that had been sitting in a wide circle for most of the night scooted their chairs closer together. Some now stood, gesturing with their plastic cups of wine as they read aloud, "My lord, I do protest--". Another bunch of people had started coming in the Wherehouse, threatening the peace of the Shakespeareans. Squads of twenty year old guys and a few girls in torn black jeans, little hats, and cool Goodwill jackets carried in guitars, drum sets, and big amps with ropes of power cords. The punks hadn't seen each other in a long time, many were old friends that greeted each other with bear hugs, "Dude! I love you, what's up man!?" As the din of backslaps and banging equipment got louder, so did the Twelfth Night. "How now! art thou mad?" shouted a woman wearing a felted jester hat and veil over her long braid. I circled the readers like a nervous sheepdog as Josh hobnobbed with the musicians, but other than a few bemused looks back and forth, neither group seemed offended by the other. It was successful integration of the two facets of the Wherehouse.

When I was twenty, and a designer from the University of Iowa newspaper spoke to my typography class, what appealed to me was the chance to collaborate with non-artists, be conscious of a different world, and work on projects that had creative elements in addition to technical / analytical / managerial. This is what I have gotten at the Wherehouse, but instead of making diagrams and pie charts, I have skinned rabbits, played in a Shangri Las cover band, performed flexibility moves on a trapeze, installed a staircase, and worked a PA. I have learned that even if you don't smoke it's important to go outside when everybody does, because smoking is only in part about nicotine. It's mostly about taking a step back from what you are working on to meet the people you are working with. I like the problem solving, responsibility, control, hard work, passion. I have learned what people respond to. I have learned it takes a long time for people to get their heads around something. When they are on board things happen right quick, when they are not, it doesn't. I guess this is the importance of having good people around you, who you trust, who are hard workers, whose aesthetics and decision-making you respect. I think I know now to just go for it.